A legend: a tale or story that is of a supposed historical origin that has never been authenticated.
Sarutobi Hiruzen knew that there were tales about him. They varied from the vaguely true to the plain ridiculous. Third Hokage, The Professor, The God of Ninja, he had been known as the chimp during his academy days and monkey to his friends. Yet what did these titles actually say about him? When he was long dead would anyone remember that his favourite food was hijiki or that he suffered from hay-fever every spring? The sound of his laughter would be forever forgotten, the legends would never tell the story of how he cried on the first day of academy and no one would remember the story of how he first met Biwako.
Legends really did immortalise your memory but that was the problem. Your mortality would be forever forgotten.
Hiruzen fought back the pain as the image of Biwako's dead body surfaced in his mind. He squeezed his eyes shut, fighting the grief that tried to consume him. Each day was filled with indescribable agony. Sometimes he still woke thinking that Biwako was by his side. The worst time had been when he had asked Asuma to tell his mother that he would be late for dinner.
Asuma… Never before had Hiruzen been so worried about his youngest son. Parents were never supposed to have favourites but it had always been the case that he had been closest to their eldest, Tamotsu, while Biwako had been close to Asuma. The boy barely talked to him anymore and even avoided Tamotsu. All ninjas were supposed to be prepared for the death of a loved one but Asuma was taking his mother's death incredibly hard.
Hiruzen sighed and ran a hand down his weary face. These were incredibly hard times for Konoha. Namikaze Minato, the man who had given Konoha it's golden era, was dead. It was as if the sun had been stolen from the sky. He had lived the life of a hero and had to die a hero's death. It should have been Hiruzen who had died but as usual he was too late. He had been late trying to save his student Orochimaru and he had been too late trying to save Minato.
The Third cast a look out of the window and the cloud shrouded sky. He was not looking forward to Minato's memorial tomorrow. He stared back down at the huge mountain of papers that were piled up on his desk.
The village was crippled with thousands of its citizens killed. Ninjas had to step up to new positions and assume greater responsibilities. Take Hatake Kakashi for instance. The treaty with Kumo was still a fragile one and the Third knew that it was of the utmost importance to maintain it. Shikaku luckily was there to help Kakashi but it was the White Fang's son who had been coordinating communications with Kumo. With the boy's efforts, for the first time in history, Kumo was offering Konoha aid. It was a monumental achievement for any ninja, let alone for a sixteen-year-old boy.
"Hokage-sama?" A soft voice called.
The Third glanced up from his desk to see none other than the boy himself emerge from the shadows. It was unnerving to see Kakashi move in the exact same way his mother had. The boy had grown up so much since that fateful day Hiruzen had assigned him to Orochimaru's outpost. Every day he grew more and more like his father that there were times Hiruzen mistook Kakashi for the White Fang.
Yet… Kakashi was more like his mother that people gave him credit for. It pained Hiruzen that Sakumo was remembered but his beautiful, mysterious wife was forgotten. However… There was one person who had never forgotten her…
"It would be good for you to tutor him," The Third said.
Yuhi Hisao turned and raised an eyebrow. "I thought the Hatake boy already had a tutor," he said gruffly. "Namikaze Minato."
"Minato is talented at many things," Hiruzen agreed. "However swordsmanship he is not. Someone with your skills could help Kakashi."
Hisao scowled. "No," he said bluntly. "I'm sorry Hokage-sama but there are much better tutors than me out there. Gekko Miyako for instance. I'm sorry but I simply can't do this."
With that Hisao turned on his heel and walked out of the office. Just as Hisao reached the door Hiruzen suddenly called, "He's a lot more like her than you think."
The Third continued, "I've met the boy. He's reserved like his mother, shares her love for books and aubergine soup." He then chuckled, "Kakashi has the same stubborn streak too and Hisao… He looks so much like her, you know, without the mask."
"Don't," Hisao said softly. "Please don't talk about her. She's dead… Don't talk as if she lives on… I want nothing to do with the White Fang's son."
It had appeared that Yuhi Hisao hadn't been able to resist. After all the Third had a suspicion that it had been Hisao who had pushed Gekko Miyako into tutoring Kakashi. The man had also reported Orochimaru's suspicious actions towards Kakashi and had protected the White Fang's son as much as possible.
Captain Yuhi had been a good man and great ninja who had unfortunately led a tragic life. He had married a woman who he had never loved and had watched the only woman he had loved marry his friend. No wonder his wife had left him for a merchant a decade ago. Poor Kurenai had to grow up with a bitter father and a broken family. It had broken Hiruzen's heart to see the girl crying with grief when she had been informed of her father's death.
"Aid from Kumo has arrived," Kakashi informed the Third. "We have enough supplies to last the refugees for months."
"Excellent," Hiruzen nodded.
There was a tenuous pause and the Third knew what was coming.
Kakashi gazed at him with deadened eyes and said slowly, "I know that this is not my place to say but-"
"You are wondering what will happen to Naruto," Hiruzen finished.
"With all due respects, Hokage-sama, I know that it's best to keep the information of the jinchuriki safe but you can't just condemn Naruto into a lifetime of ignorance," Kakashi said and Hiruzen could sense anger in the boy's voice.
"What would you have me do, Kakashi?" The Third asked and he suddenly felt very old. It wasn't right for him to assume the position of Hokage again but with Jiraiya off grieving what else could he do?
It was lucky he had the council and Danzo by his side. Hiruzen knew the dangers of placing his trust in Danzo yet he was without options. He was without a successor and Konoha needed people there to protect it.
A deal had been cut between the Third and Danzo. Danzo would not interfere with the future of Konoha's third jinchuriki however he would aid Hiruzen with the mystery of how the kyubi escaped. Unfortunately all fingers were now pointed at the Uchiha clan due to their noticeable absence during the attack.
The Third hated to admit but he had a feeling that Danzo's suspicions were correct. An Uchiha most certainly had to have been involved with the kyubi attack. What else could they do? However a dark feeling had settled at the back of his mind as he recalled Uchiha Fugaku's face when the council had questioned him. Forcing the Uchiha clan to be segregated from the village… Was that really the answer?
"Minato had many enemies," Hiruzen said softly as he turned his thoughts back to Naruto. "If knowledge gets out that his son not only survived the kyubi attack but also is the container himself then what do you think will happen? No… Naruto must live the life of an orphan. He'll remain inconspicuous that way."
"Then Konoha will simply repeat the same mistake," Kakashi hissed. Something had clearly broken inside the boy. It was no surprise considering how close he had been to Minato and Kushina. "The reason so many people died was because the village had no idea how to handle an attack by a tailed beast. People need to be aware of the kyubi's existence within the village."
"You might as well draw a target on the boy," Hiruzen's patience snapped. "No one will understand the pain the boy has to go through. They will only see the kyubi inside him."
Kakashi fell silent and looked away. The Third slumped back in his chair and ran a hand down his face. Finally Kakashi said, "In Kumo jinchuriki are seen as heroes, you know."
The Third looks up at him and frowned. "Go on," he said slowly.
"From a young age every child in Kumo is taught about the tailed beasts and why the village needs them," Kakashi told him. "I learnt about it when I went through their academy training. People are educated about jinchuriki. Yes it's true that there are still people who hold resentment against them. B and Yugito both had a hard time growing up… But because people have that understanding and the jinchuriki are given special training from a young age they grow up as heroes within the village."
Hiruzen was struck by Kakashi's logic. It really did make sense. He was so use to shrouding the jinchuriki in protective secrecy that he had never realised that there were some benefits of everyone knowing the kyubi's existence within the boy. He had always thought that ignorance was the best option for Naruto and his peers. After all ignorance would give Naruto a chance at living a normal childhood… But how could a child possibly live a normal childhood when they were orphaned from birth?
Naruto would never have the childhood that Kushina and Minato had dreamed of. Yet Kakashi was offering him the next best thing.
"I'll talk to the council," Hiruzen finally said and tension eased away from Kakashi's shoulders. "However you do understand that it's safest for Naruto to remain an orphan?"
Kakashi nodded and said, "Thank you, Hokage-sama."
"You may leave," Hiruzen smiled.
Just before Kakashi was about to leave the office Hiruzen suddenly called, "Kakashi!"
Kakashi turned and looked at the Hokage.
A faint nostalgic smile tugged at Hiruzen lips and he said, "Sakumo and Risa… They really would be proud to have you as their son."
Obito's eyes stung from exhaustion as he wearily trod over the bridge that curved across the Naka River. For a moment he paused, staring at the mesmerising water. The river flashed, containing so many colours within its depths, yet this time Obito didn't notice the beauty of the water. No… He was far too preoccupied with the Uchiha clan.
A week and a half had passed since the 10th October. As soon as Obito had caught wind of the fact that Mikoto and Fugaku were fine, he had procrastinated and had avoided the inevitable meeting with them. That was the sad truth. He still held that childhood wish to please Fugaku.
Hot determination burned through Obito's body and he suddenly slammed a fist into the railings of the bridge. The wood splintered and the railing buckled beneath Obito's anger. This time Fugaku would not get the better of him and, more importantly, this time Obito would not be a coward.
With his sore eyes full of purpose, Obito strode into the Uchiha compound. The usually serene compound was full of activity. People were rushing around packing crates whilst others were loading up carts.
Obito froze as he drank in the scene. "Hey Auntie Uruchi!" He called spotting the Uchiha clan's favourite baker. "What's going on?"
The old woman rubbed her back as she looked up from the crate she'd been packing. "Ah Obito," she said, frowning a little. "Haven't you heard?"
"Heard what?" Obito gave her a bemused look. He walked over, easily lifting the crate into a cart for Auntie Uruchi.
"The clan is moving," she told him. "We have a new site further down the Naka River on the outskirts of the village."
"What?" Obito spluttered. "The whole clan? Just… What?"
What would possess Fugaku to move the entire clan to the very outskirts of Konoha? Why would they move from ancient site that has belonged to their clan since the village was established? The very thought was incomprehensible to Obito. Was this what the meeting had been all about?
"Need anymore help?" Obito asked.
Auntie Uruchi shook her head. "That's about it," she told him. The old woman sighed. "I'll be sad to leave this place…"
Obito gave her a consoling pat on the shoulder and said, "At least everyone will be together."
The words rung in Obito's ears as he left Auntie Uruchi to finish her packing. With the clan on the outskirts of the village it would only further the segregation that was already happening. Was that what Fugaku wanted? Did he really want history to repeat itself?
Obito began to walk faster as he made his way to Mikoto and Fugaku's house. Immediately he was struck by how chaotic the place was with boxes everywhere and random objects lying upon the floor. Stepping over a box full of crockery, Obito entered the house.
A strange ache filled his chest as he gazed around the house that he had spent most of his childhood in. So many unanswered questions swam around in his mind. Mikoto loved this house. Surely she wouldn't just let Fugaku do this…
"Obi-nii!" A voice called.
Obito blinked as Shisui suddenly materialised from seemingly nowhere. It unnerved him slightly that his cousin had already mastered the body flicker technique to such a flawless extent.
"Where've you been?" Shisui said and there was hurt written all over his face. "Aunt Mikoto's been pretty upset that you haven't visited since the kyubi attack… And I had to do all the packing by myself."
"Yeah that's just it," Obito frowned. "Why is everyone packing?"
"Not sure," Shisui shrugged. "But it was so last minute. Uncle Fugaku announced it two days ago. We have to be out by tonight apparently."
Obito scratched the back of his head. With the kyubi attack and the mysterious meeting, this surely couldn't be a coincidence.
"Obito!" Obito spun around to see Aunt Mikoto approach him. Tears filled his Aunt's eyes and she smiled, "It's so good to see you… I was so worried-"
"That's enough Mikoto," a sharp voice cut in.
Fugaku emerged from the shadows and he glowered at his nephew. Obito simply stared straight back, mouth set and unsmiling.
"Where've you been?" Fugaku asked him.
"I was about to ask you the same question," Obito responded coolly.
Fugaku stared at him for a moment and Obito's eyes watered. All he could do was fight the urge to pull his goggles down and hide from his uncle. Instead he pulled his goggles past his face so they hung loosely around his neck.
"Shisui go help Itachi," Mikoto said softly. Shisui nodded and slipped away. Obito knew that Shisui would probably hide and listen in on the conversation with Itachi, yet at that point, he didn't care. Years of resentment and fighting clan expectations were rising up within him.
"Where were you?" Obito narrowed his eyes.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Fugaku raised an eyebrow.
"I think what Fugaku means is that we've been incredibly worried about you," Mikoto smoothly interjected. "I mean it's been a week and a half since the kyubi attack. Why didn't you come and see us?"
Obito felt a twinge of guilt seeing the hurt in his aunt's eyes but he pushed it away. Whenever Fugaku argued with Obito, Mikoto would always stand meekly by.
"You have a duty to be with your clan," Fugaku told him.
A burst of bitter laughter ripped its way from Obito's mouth. "A duty?" He said incredulously. "My duty is to work for the Hokage, my duty is to protect Konoha. That's your duty too."
"You know nothing," Fugaku's voice dropped to a dangerous level. "So don't talk about duty."
"Yes. I. Will," Obito ground his teeth. All his friends began to surface to his mind. Kakashi was battling through his grief as he was given the post of ambassador to Kumo. Rin was working tirelessly as she healed the wounded. Asuma was out there organising clearance of the rubble just days after his mother's funeral. Everyone was doing their bit for the village. Everyone that is, except the Uchiha clan.
"I was out there protecting people and helping them to safety during the attack," Obito snarled. "I've been working hard with the recovery effort. So why haven't I seen a single Uchiha out there helping?"
"Like I said you know nothing," Fugaku glowered at him.
"The fuck I do," Obito spat.
"There are many things that are going on with the higher ups that you do not understand," Fugaku repeated.
"But let me guess you can't tell me because it's classified?" Obito sneered. "Or wait is it because I don't have the sharingan?"
Fugaku fell silent and that was all Obito needed. He let out an incredulous laugh and said, "I knew it. That's all that matters to you, isn't it? It's all about the sharingan. Never mind the fact that I'm a jonin. You just can't accept someone without a bloodline limit."
Obito stared Fugaku straight in the eye and said, "But you know what? I don't give a fuck about the sharingan. One day I'm going to Hokage and prove to you that it's possible to make your own way without a bloodline limit."
"You are so naive," Fugaku said darkly.
"Maybe," Obito shrugged. "But what I do know is that you should have been there protecting your village and most of all protecting your family. Or let me guess clan duty is more important that that?"
Mikoto moved so fast that even Obito didn't see it coming. A stinging pain met his cheek and Obito had to blink away tears. Suddenly his eyes dilated as he gazed at his aunt. Mikoto stood in front of him, her hand raised and her chest heaving with emotion.
"Don't you ever say that," she whispered. "Fugaku and I love you, Sasuke, Itachi and Shisui. So don't you dare say that. It's true that the relationship between the clan and Konoha is incredibly complicated however you must understand that we'll always love you."
Obito's walls came crumbling down as he touched his cheek. Mikoto, his only ally in the clan, had finally chosen her side and that was with Fugaku. Obito knew that it was always going to be this way but it still hurt.
"There are so many things that you do not understand," Mikoto repeated the same line that Fugaku had been saying. "So, gods, would you just give us a chance? We're doing our best to keep this family safe."
"I don't think I can," Obito said softly and he reached up to touch the clan symbol that was sewn on the sleeve of his shirt. In one smooth movement he tore the patch from his sleeve. Mikoto gasped and even Fugaku appeared stunned.
"I used to think that the Uchiha clan was the greatest clan," Obito stared at the patch and he let it slip from his fingers. The three of them stared as it fluttered to the floor. "But now I can see that you're nothing…"
It would only be years later, whenever Obito looked at Sasuke, that he would recall certain things that he had never noticed at the time on that fateful day. Obito was far too choked up with emotion to hear Fugaku breathe the name of his father. It would be years before he would realise how regretful his uncle looked and how, at that very moment, Mikoto's heart was breaking.
That was the tragedy of hindsight.
Right now though, Obito's mind was far too fogged up to notice anything. A single tear escaped from Obito's eyes, running down his face until it slipped away. His faith in the clan had withered away until a feeling of disdain had taken its place. Turning away from his aunt and uncle, Obito walked away.
"Obito!" Mikoto yelled and a sob caused her voice to crack. "We love you... Please! I'm sorry… Don't leave!"
She reached out to touch his shoulder but Obito shook her off. Fugaku was simply frozen. All he could do was stare at Obito as his nephew walked out of the house.
As he left the house, Obito drew in a deep reassuring breath of air. His head was spinning, stomach churning with heartache. He wanted scream, shout, hit something or run until he collapsed from exhaustion.
Was this the best idea?
Did he know where he would go?
Did he have a plan or even an inkling as to what he'd do next?
Don't be ridiculous.
"Obito!" A voice shouted. Obito turned to see Shisui and Itachi race out of the house.
A look of panic was all over the boys' faces as they stared at him in horror. "You can't be leaving?" Shisui said. "This has got to be some kind of joke… Right?"
Obito turned and he knelt before Itachi and Shisui. "I'm not leaving," he sighed. "I'll still be in Konoha… I just won't be living with the clan anymore. I'll collect all of my stuff and move out."
"So you are leaving," Shisui threw him a look a disgusted look. "You're abandoning us."
Obito sighed and he placed a hand on top of Shisui and Itachi's heads. "I would never abandon you," he told them. "But… I just can't be here anymore…"
Suddenly a grin flashed its way across his face, taking the younger boys by surprise. "Someday," Obito whispered to them. "I will need your help to rescue the clan… I'll need you to help me from the inside… So promise me that you'll be there?"
Slowly Shisui and Itachi nodded. Obito smiled ruffling their hair and he straightened. "I'll see you around," he grinned. "You can't get away from me that easily. Shisui keep practicing that body flicker technique. I want you to be able to beat me next time we race each other. Tach' keep working on your kunai skills ok?"
With small salute Obito strode away, leaving the Uchiha clan behind.
Would he ever be Hokage?
Obito looked up at the sky and smiled. That was one question he knew the answer to.
As a member abandoned their family forever, all over Konoha others were being reunited. Families, lovers and friends drew together as they fought through the misery and destruction that the kyubi had left behind.
As a medic Rin got to observe so many of these reunions and it was these reunions that kept her going. Every time a mother found her child Rin was reminded that the warmth Konoha used to have was still alive. However… There was still one person who Rin had yet to be reunited with.
The recovery effort was in full swing with refugee stations set up in the academy and caverns for people whose homes had been destroyed. At least in the war Rin actually had medical supplies. With the hospital destroyed all she had was a few bandages, ointments and a couple of tents to tend to the eight hundred who were wounded. Luckily with aid arriving from Kumo yesterday things had eased up a little but Rin was still working non-stop.
In a strange way Rin was thankful for all the work. Though she was exhausted every night the recovery effort distracted her from her grief. Yet… With the Fourth Hokage's memorial fast approaching tomorrow the careful barriers Rin had constructed around her emotions were threatening to burst. What else could she do but keep going and swallow the agony that was threatening to overwhelm her?
"Rin?" Hyuga Ko peered through the flap of the medical tent. "Someone to see you."
"Got it," Rin nodded with a weary sigh. Her gaze returned to the surgical instruments she had been cleaning.
"Rin?" A soft voice called.
Rin's eyes widened and instantly her weariness dissipated. The scalpel she had been holding clattered to the ground and she spun around.
"Aoba?" She breathed. A sob escaped from her lips and Rin threw herself at him. Every night Rin had lay awake wondering if Aoba was alive and every day she had listened out for any news of him. Now as he stood before her, bandaged and bruised. Rin felt as if she were in a dream.
"You're alive," she whispered as tears trailed down her cheeks. "I was so scared… I…"
Suddenly the words trailed away as Rin realised something was wrong. Aoba was not hugging her back. He just stood there awkwardly and when Rin moved away he simply avoided her gaze.
"I'm… Sorry I didn't come and find you sooner," he said. "I just… Had some things I needed to sort out…"
Rin gave him a concerned look and asked, "What's wrong Aoba?"
"What's wrong?" Aoba gave a bitter laugh. "I'll tell you what's wrong. Inoichi's dead."
Seeing Rin's stunned face Aoba nodded and said heavily, "That goddamn idiot saved my life."
Aoba ran an agitated hand through his hair and it suddenly dawned on Rin what was so strange about his appearance. Aoba's sunglasses were missing. He looked so vulnerable without them, emotions laid bare and Rin could see that he was barely holding it together.
She couldn't help herself. Rin reached out to embrace him but Aoba jerked back. "Aoba?" Rin whispered, her eyes shining with tears.
"Riko-san is dead too," Aoba told her.
The news that Inoichi's wife was dead to hit Rin so hard that a gasp escaped from her mouth. It all made sense seeing as the Yamanaka compound was on the edge of the eastern quarter but for this to happen…
"What about Ino?" Rin breathed. "Sh-she's not-"
"She's alive," Aoba whispered. "Riko protected her when the building collapsed."
A whoosh of relief escaped from Rin's lips. She then asked, "What's going to happen to her?"
A faraway look appeared on Aoba face and he said softly, "Well Inoichi… Well he made me godfather. Apparently he was going to tell me when I turned eighteen but of course that idiot forgot…"
"You surely can't mean…" Rin trailed off. "I mean, Aoba, you're eighteen."
"I know," Aoba nodded. "Believe me I know and I've talked to the Hokage about it but… I need to do this. For Inoichi."
"But you have no idea how to raise a baby!" Rin cried. "C'mon Aoba surely Ino has relatives? I'm sure Shikaku or Choza-"
"You think I haven't thought about this?" Aoba snapped. "I've talked to the remaining members of the Yamanaka clan. I'll live with Inoichi's grandmother who will help me raise her. The Hokage has agreed and Shikaku and Choza will also help."
Seeing Rin's incredulous face Aoba whispered, "I have to do this… I want to do this. I mean I'm scared shitless but… What else can I do? Most of the Yamanaka clan are dead."
Rin fell silent. It was so hard to take in that her head was spinning. Kushina and Minato were dead. Kakashi was out with Shikaku organising treaties with Kumo. Now Aoba was apparently going to raise Ino. Rin's generation was stepping up to take the place of the old yet she was struggling to keep up. It had only seemed to be yesterday when she had been assigned to Team 7.
She could see that Aoba was terrified of the future yawning in front of him. Rin took a step forwards but Aoba backed away again.
"I'm sorry," he said. "Rin… I just can't."
Aoba reached into his flak jacket pocket and pull out something. He threw it to Rin who caught it with ease.
Opening her palm, Rin's eyes dilated. It was the shell that Obito had given her for her thirteenth birthday. The shell from Rin's favourite necklace, the thing that she had been looking for before the kyubi had attacked.
"I found it near the hospital right before the kyubi appeared," Aoba said in a deadened voice. He then spun on his heel and left the tent.
Rin stumbled slightly as she ran after him. "Aoba wait!" She cried as she burst of the tent. "I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry! Please!"
Aoba glanced back at her and Rin saw tears trailing down his cheeks. "So am I," he whispered.
Rin found herself frozen to the spot. All she could was watch as Aoba walked out of her life.
The morning of Anko's fifteenth birthday was a wretched one. Dark clouds marred the sky and the heavens cried rain so torrential that it drowned the streets. The drains beneath her feet thundered with water, bubbling away as they struggled to fight against the downpour.
Anko clung to her umbrella as she weaved in and out of people who were trailing to the Hokage tower. Water splashed over her boots and sprayed onto her mesh stockings. It had taken almost two weeks for the higher ups to organise the Fourth's memorial. Finally the date had been set and today on the 24th October the late Hokage's memorial was to take place outside the tower. Perhaps even the gods were mourning the loss of the Golden Hokage as the weather was so miserably apt.
Anko gazed around her. Countless people of people were wailing and clinging to each other. Hundreds of flowers and offerings were being placed in front of the tower.
3,000 people. 3,000 lives extinguished in one night.
Their names were being currently engraved on a huge memorial that was to be erected near Konoha's Cemetery. That memorial had already taken place as the Third had stood and read the thousands of names. The horrible thing was that the death toll was growing higher as people were still moving the rubble in the eastern quarter. Today's service, however, was solely in remembrance of the Fourth Hokage.
It seemed that the whole of Konoha had turned up yet Anko couldn't help but wonder how many of them had actually known Namikaze Minato. She had only met the man when she had been given missions. No… Anko was here for another person. As someone who kept mainly to herself, Anko didn't like many people. However Kushina had been one of the few people who had understood her. The two had shared an understanding so deep that not even Rin could comprehend it.
After Orochimaru had abandoned her, Anko had sunk into a pit of depression. Every night she woke up screaming from horrific nightmares and even in the day she was haunted by her sensei's yellow eyes. Bags of sleep deprivation had developed beneath her eyes, her hair ragged and her body wasting away.
It was all her fault. That had been the constant thought whirling round and round in her head. If Anko hadn't been so pathetically weak and had cared so much then she wouldn't have reported her worries about Kakashi's movements to Orochimaru. Her only friend had vanished from the world and Anko had been the cause of it.
During that agonisingly long stay in hospital, Anko had lost the ability to speak. Nurses and ninjas alike tried to talk to her but all they ever received was silence. Anko had found that she had so much emotion; so much pain that words became tangled in her mouth. It was only through violence that she could express herself. Brutal violence gave her protection, a shield hide behind as she tried to rip away emotion from her body. So many times, to the dismay of the hospital staff, Anko had stolen a fork to hack away at the walls and furniture.
Listening to Rin, who had been on the medical team, had always made things more bearable. The older girl's voice was so soothing that it had always calmed Anko's rages. Yet… It had never been enough. The nightmares of her time with Orochimaru had always returned along with the overpowering guilt.
That was until a certain person had turned up in her room one day...
Anko sat in bed, staring at her hospital food. For two hours she had sat and using her hand she had moulded her mash potatoes into a sculpture of the Hokage Mountain. The nurses had simply watched her, thoroughly used to the girl playing with her food.
For a moment Anko gazed at her food sculpture. Then she raised her plastic knife to demolish her two-hour creation.
"Feels good, doesn't it?" A voice said.
Anko's head jerked upwards to see a redheaded woman enter the room. Her knife hovered dangerously in the air.
"When you destroy something you get a sense that you're controlling your life, that you have power," the woman continued. "I'm right aren't I?"
Anko gave her a wary look. How did this woman know?
The woman slowly approached. Then she slowly lifted her long crimson locks, exposing her neck to Anko. Anko's eyes widened as she spotted white scars that criss-crossed their way across the woman's pale skin.
"See these scars?" The woman said tapping the back of her neck. "When I was a kid I absolutely hated my hair. So I used to hack away at it all the time."
She dropped her hair and said softly, "I know you won't believe me but I can tell when someone's drowning. I know when someone is so lost that they've forgotten what it's like to love and violence is the only way they can communicate… I really do know."
And somehow Anko could see it in the woman's eyes. Those eyes… They were a strange sea-blue that swirled with the same pain Anko felt, the same agony she was feeling. Yet… Anko could see that something had calmed the woman's pain.
Anko licked her cracked lips and finally, finally croaked, "… Name?"
The woman gave her a warm, beautiful smile and said, "Uzumaki Kushina, pleased to meet you."
Kushina… The Hokage's wife had been the only person who could relate to what Anko had gone through. Both she and Rin had saved Anko.
The rain continued to hammer down upon the crowds of people that were gathering. Grit spattered onto Anko's legs and the air contained a strong earthy scent that reminded Anko of her mother.
Moments like this seemed never ending. Although Logic told Anko that in only few hours she would be at home with a hot cup of tea, the rain slowed time to a dreary standstill. There was so much misery that Anko doubted that even the storm could wash it away.
Without a doubt this was the worst birthday ever but Anko didn't even care. What did a birthday matter when the greatest leader, that Konoha had ever known, was dead?
So many familiar faces peered out in dark mass of mourners. Gai who was usually full of invigorating life dragged his feet, looking strangely drained of colour in his black attire. Jiraiya towered over many of the mourners as he stood next to some Kumo's representatives. Anko spotted Genma and Raido looking grim and over to her far left she caught the orange flash of Uchiha Obito's goggles. Even through the masses of people she could see Obito holding Rin's hand.
Anko felt a shot of relief at the sight of the small gesture. Despite the miserable situation there were still signs of love. No matter how low it was, hope still kindled in Konoha. Anko had no idea how to deal with someone when they were heartbroken. Heck she had a hard enough time figuring out her own emotions. So she was incredibly glad that Rin had Obito to be there for her after the incident with Aoba yesterday.
Yet… Anko stood on her tip-toes. There was one person missing. The one person who perhaps had been closest to the Fourth Hokage. Hatake Kakashi had not turned up to his sensei's memorial.
"Even the greatest of warriors fear surrender. Did you know that, Kakashi? We live defiantly. Fighting with pride even if it is to the death. But when it comes to emotions it is never about conquest. Yes, we can destroy our emotions however all that's left of us is a shell. There'll be times in your life, Kakashi, where you'll feel so much pain that you'll want to die. Surrender to it and use it so you can be stronger… That's rule number three. 'A true warrior knows when to surrender.'"
Sakumo's lesson had never before been more prevalent in Kakashi's mind. He suddenly stopped walking, splashing into a puddle but Kakashi didn't even feel the water soak through his shoes. Mourners making their way to Minato's memorial washed past him in one blurred river. His surroundings were drained of colour. The drowned pavement was merely one stream of grey, framed by anaemic buildings.
All his life Kakashi had played the part of the perfect ninja. Flawless grades, perfect taijutsu, phenomenal swordsmanship, adept at illusions as well as techniques. He knew that all he had to do was attend Sensei's memorial yet… Kakashi found himself frozen.
The umbrella slipped from his hand and immediately icy rained slammed into him.
Yes… Hatake Kakashi was a perfect ninja. Everyone knew that. He followed orders, had a freakishly high mission success rate, strategic mind and was a fearless fighter. His comrades were inspired when they saw him fight on the field and he constantly impressed his superiors. But on the day of his sensei's memorial, Kakashi found that he couldn't even summon a shred of courage.
He couldn't do it.
Kakashi's body began to move of it's own accord. His feet pulled him away and soon Kakashi was fighting against the river of mourners. The black mass suffocated him and with, shaking frantic hands, Kakashi formed a seal to body flicker away.
As he appeared before the K.I.A memorial in the Third Training Grounds, Kakashi began to shake from the cold. His breath materialised before him in wisps of water vapour and his limbs started to tremble.
"I'm sorry," Kakashi gasped to the marble stone before him. "Dad… I just don't know what to do… K-Kushina… Minato…"
Rule number three. A true warrior knows when to surrender. But if this was surrendering to his emotions then Kakashi would rather die. Is this what his father had meant? Had Sakumo gone through the same thing? He knew that his father had outlived his teammates and sensei. Then of course his mother had been tragically killed during a mission… How had Sakumo handled all of that pain?
When the White Fang had died, the only thing that had kept Kakashi going was Kushina and her sunny face. She had been so warm, a forceful reminder of life with her love and laughter. Kushina hadn't simply been Sakumo's student; she had been part of the family.
Uzumaki Kushina with her thunderous temper and crimson hair had been Kakashi's older sister. Teasing, scolding, occasionally terrifying when she flew into one of her rages but Kakashi had loved her. The tragic thing was that he had never told her.
Kakashi collapsed onto his knees and a sob escaped from his lips. When Sakumo had died Kakashi had found it impossible to cry. Maybe it was due to the shock or perhaps it was because Kakashi simply hadn't had the emotional depth back then to cry. He had disregarded rule number three and had fought his emotions into submission. But, nine years since Sakumo's death, Kakashi caved to the emotions he had been fighting for his entire life. It was terrifying yet somehow… It was a release.
Tears mingled with the rain, running down his cheeks. His mask was soaked, clinging to his face as a second skin, yet Kakashi could taste traces of salt in the material.
He had no idea how long he sat there, knelt before the memorial, with tears trailing down his face. It could have been minutes or even hours. That was the thing about grief. It was timeless. Sure some of the pain would ease away but that reminder would remain with you for the rest of your life.
Suddenly, the rain stopped. Kakashi dragged his gaze away from the memorial stone to find the sky was red above him. However as his blurred eyes began to focus he realised that someone was holding an umbrella over him.
"If you carry on sitting here you're going to catch a chill, y'know," a voice said.
Kakashi blinked. Hard.
Mitarashi Anko stood above him with a soft smile upon her face.
Kakashi opened his mouth then closed it again. He struggled for a moment and cleared his throat. Finally he said lamely, "Got something in my eye."
Anko nodded, "Tends to happen in weather like this."
There wasn't a trace of sympathy or pity in her voice and perhaps that was what caught Kakashi's attention. All there was was a deep understanding in Anko's dark eyes.
She held out a hand and helped Kakashi to stand. Anko raised her arm higher so the umbrella sheltered both of them. "Pretty shit day," Anko muttered. "To think they'd actually forecast sunshine."
It was a typical thing to do. Awkwardly talk about the weather while avoid the obvious subject that was at hand. Her statement was so ridiculously mundane that a strangled laugh escaped from Kakashi's mouth. It sounded so strange to hear laughter on a day like this but he knew that Minato would have hated to see so many people cry for him. If the Fourth Hokage had had things his way then the whole memorial would have been a very understated affair with only a few friends there.
"C'mon," Anko gently tugged at Kakashi's arm. "… Let's go…"
Kakashi cast one long last look at the memorial stone. Then, he allowed Anko to lead him away. Just as they were trudging down the steps Anko suddenly glanced back at the stone and she called, "See you later Mum! Oh, and it was nice to meet you Sakumo-san!"
Kakashi's eyes widened and he glanced down at Anko.
"What?" Anko gave him a nonchalant shrug. "I'm being polite."
It suddenly struck Kakashi how much he had missed Anko's bizarre conversations. The girl was beyond confusing but that was what had always been so interesting about her. She was complicated and though being friends with someone who was complicated wasn't necessarily healthy, Kakashi knew that he would never be bored when he was with her.
They walked through Konoha in relative silence, uncomfortably close underneath the umbrella. Kakashi didn't see the point in walking beneath it at all but he got the feeling that he would get a scolding if he tried to walk in the rain again. Through the fresh smell of the rain Kakashi caught Anko's scent and for once he was grateful of how distracting it was.
"Which way to your house?" Anko asked him.
Kakashi gave a questioning look and Anko sighed. "I'm not going to leave you out here in the rain," she told him.
Hesitantly Kakashi gave her the directions and finally they turned up at the Hatake compound. As Anko took in the drenched training scarecrow and the bare flowerbeds, the sudden image of Kushina wearing a large sunhat while gardening floated through Kakashi's mind.
"Kakashi! Goddamn it would you stop training and come inside to eat your dinner!"
Kakashi froze. He ran a hand through his sopping hair and frantically stared around the yard. All that met his gaze was the forlorn scarecrow and the rhythmic thundering of the rain.
"Let's go inside," Anko murmured and she gently led him up the porch. Kakashi's hands shook as he fumbled for his keys and as the warm air of the house hit him when he opened the door, Kakashi realised how cold he was.
His limbs began to shake uncontrollably as he fumbled to take his sandals off, teeth chattering as he dripped water everywhere.
"Go take a shower," Anko instructed him. She cast him a worried glance. "Are you ok to do that?"
Kakashi nodded as he shivered and said, "M-make y-y-"
"Will do," Anko nodded. "Just go have a shower and put on some warm clothes."
Kakashi padded down the hall and into the bathroom. It took far too long for him to strip; his clothes were leaden from the water and his hands could only fumble as he peeled them from his skin.
Finally, he stepped into the shower. A gasp escaped him as hot water hit his skin and all Kakashi could do was grit his teeth until his body was used to the temperature.
The shower took far longer than it usually did. Kakashi stood there for a good half an hour, letting the water run over his body until he stopped shivering. Steam began to obscure his vision and Kakashi found himself in such a deep trance that he shampooed his hair three times without even realising it.
Then… His nose twitched.
With his inhuman sense of smell, Kakashi detected a nostalgic scent waft beneath the bathroom door. He turned the shower knob, halting the water flow. After towelling himself dry and dressing into fresh clothes, Kakashi headed out of the bathroom in pursuit of the smell.
The scent grew stronger as he moved down the hall and it was then Kakashi realised what it was. Miso Soup.
His heart leapt. "Kushina!" He called. Kakashi sprinted into the kitchen and his hope died.
Anko stood at by the stove, clutching two bowls, with a look of surprise. "Are you ok?" She asked him. "… You were in the shower for over an hour."
Of course. Kushina was dead along with Minato… Kakashi ran a hand down his face. So why did he keep straining his ears for Kushina's foghorn voice?
"Miso soup," Kakashi lamely attempted to change the subject, thankful that Anko refrained from mentioning that he had called Kushina's name.
"Kushina taught me how to make it," Anko gave him a wary look as she moved over to the dining table. "… I remembered that she said that you liked it with aubergines?"
Kakashi gave her a surprised look; amazed that Anko would remember something like that. He cleared his throat awkwardly and muttered, "That's right… Thanks."
Anko shrugged and placed the bowls down. "One of the Third's assistant came round while you were in the shower," she told him. "They brought a bow with all the stuff that the Fourth had in the office… I put it in the spare room… If that's ok…"
Kakashi gave her a grateful look. After the misery of today he knew that he wouldn't be able to face going through Minato's stuff. As they sat down at the table, Kakashi gave the miso soup a contemplative stare.
"… Why are you doing all of this?" He finally said, his eyes flicking up to gaze at Anko.
Anko shrugged, her cheeks turning slightly pink, and she muttered, "I couldn't let you catch hypothermia."
Rule number three. A true warrior knows when to surrender. While you were at your knees in surrender, it was your friends who helped you to your feet.
"That's what friends do," Kakashi said casually though all the while eyeing Anko carefully.
Anko looked up from her soup and gave Kakashi a smile. "Yeah…" She whispered, her face full of regret. "That's what friends do."
"Hey that isn't… Is it?"
"I can't believe I'm seeing him the flesh!"
"He saved my entire family!"
"What a wonderful young man. I remember that his father was a hero too."
This was what Kakashi was hit with as soon as he stepped into the academy grounds. He stood for a moment in the playground, clutching a crate of blankets, listening to the whispers in disbelief.
The storm from yesterday had washed past and now Konoha was filled with hopeful sunshine. Still, after the memorial yesterday, the time to grieve was over as there was still much to do for the relief effort.
"Someone's famous," Asuma muttered to Kakashi as everyone stared at him. With teaching at the academy temporarily suspended, homeless citizens had been given beds in the classrooms.
"I dragged people out of the rubble so how come I don't get people whispering about me?" Raido scowled.
"Because Kakashi's the White Demon," Genma said in a spooky voice. "Descended from the god Raijin himself he smites the evil with his magic blade, rides a flying horse, shags hundreds of women and-"
"And that is how rumours get started," Kakashi shook his head as the three other boys laughed.
"Yeah but with a reputation like yours you could laid so easily," Genma pointed out as he wiggled his senbon suggestively.
"Mere mortals like us have to make do with the dregs," Asuma agreed.
"That may be the case for you mate," Raido laughed and Genma sniggered.
"Now that you have all finished debasing the opposite sex," a stern voice said from behind them. "Would you all kindly bring the supplies in where they are actually needed instead of gossiping like women in the playground."
The four boys turned to meet the disapproving stare of Hyuga Hizashi. "Take the supplies into classroom 1-B," the jonin told them.
There was nothing more disconcerting than a Hyuga's gaze and even Genma couldn't manage to hold his smirk when he met Hizashi's eyes. All the boys could do was mutter, "Yes sir."
Upon entering the academy, Kakashi found himself unnerved by the stares and whispers that surrounded him. It was true that he was used to people talking about him but the tone of the whispers had changed. No longer was he the White Fang's son in people's eyes. Kakashi had become something so much more. With the White Fang and the Yellow Flash gone, the Sannin torn apart and the God of ninja growing older by the day, the old heroes were fading. It was clear that the White Demon was a new symbol of hope; a hero rising from the ash that the kyubi had left in its wake, the beginning of a new generation of ninja.
The sudden realisation of how important his reputation was hit Kakashi in the gut. He had never had particularly grand or majestic dreams like Obito. All Kakashi had ever wanted was to be a ninja who his father could have been proud of. For hours on end, Kakashi had studied Sakumo's scrolls and over analysed every one of his father's missions that were available in the public archive. He had quizzed his summons about his father's techniques and had pestered Jiraiya about Sakumo's feats. All his life Kakashi had assumed that to achieve his dream he would have to match his father's legacy. Yet ironically, whilst chasing a legend, Kakashi had unintentionally set himself on the road of becoming one.
"Leave all the crates in this room," Hizashi instructed them, causing Kakashi to be dragged from his thoughts.
As they dumped the crates in the empty classroom, which had been transformed into a temporary supply store, Hizashi suddenly murmured to Kakashi, "How are you feeling, Hatake?"
Kakashi gave him a slightly surprised look. He glanced over his shoulder as the other three boys who had begun to unpack the crates.
"I'm fine thank you, Hizashi-san," Kakashi replied. After all, what else could he say?
"I heard that you saved a lot of people's lives during the attack," Hizashi told him.
"Not quite enough though," Kakashi cast his eyes at the floor. If he had disobeyed orders could he have saved Minato and Kushina? It was stupid to think these things yet that was all he could think about since Minato's memorial yesterday.
Anko had helped stem the grief from flowing out of control but Kakashi couldn't help but feel that his growing reputation was sickeningly unjustified. If he were a true hero like Minato and Sakumo then he would have been able to save more people.
Hizashi gave Kakashi a long stare. Finally he said, "Follow me."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow but followed Hizashi from the room. They walked in silence as Hizashi led him down the academy corridors and finally into the hall. For a moment Kakashi was struck by how small everything look. When he had graduated in this hall at the age of five the room had seemed cavernous to him. During Obito and Rin's chunin exams, the hall had still appeared relatively big when Kakashi had helped set up the first exam.
Yet, as he walked across the ancient wooden floor, Kakashi realised that it was more of a large classroom than the great hall he remembered. The chairs stacked up in the corner were pint size and the stage at the front no longer towered above him.
Hizashi led Kakashi past the stage to the back of the hall. Suddenly, something caught Kakashi's eye.
"Yes," Hizashi cracked a small smile. "Most people never notice it when they attend academy. It was only when I came here to help with the relief effort that I realised that it was here."
Kakashi stared at the wall, mouth open. Mounted with pride were hundreds of photographs of every single genin team who had graduated from Konoha's academy. The photos dated all the way back to the time of the First, layered in dust, containing thousands of hidden memories. Kakashi's eyes roved over the smiling faces and he couldn't help but wonder where all of these teams were now.
"The year of 754 might interest you," Hizashi told him.
Kakashi jerked his head upwards and immediately a flash of yellow caught his eye. A ten-year-old Namikaze Minato grinned down at him. The almost girlish appearance of his late sensei caused a smile to appear on Kakashi's face. Then… The smile faded as he gazed at Minato's teammates who had apparently died during the Second War.
Suddenly the photo beside Minato's held Kakashi's attention. The team was perhaps the strangest to have graduated that year. To the left stood a serious looking Hyuga who was clearly not at all amused at having his photograph taken. Next stood a boy with an instantly forgettable face. The poor genin appeared to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The final member of the team was a girl with an explosion of crimson hair. She had a furious look upon her grime-stained face as her sensei had to physically turn her head so she was facing the camera.
It was clearly a dysfunctional team and the sensei, who looked more like a bandit than a ninja, had a long-suffering look upon his face. Beneath the photo was a golden plague that read:
Sensei: Hatake Sakumo
Students: Hyuga Hizashi, Joji and Uzumaki Kushina
Kakashi spun around and said to Hizashi, "You were on a team with Kushina?"
Hizashi slowly nodded as he stared at his old team's photograph. "Kushina and I… Never saw eye to eye," he said carefully. "We both gave your father hell sometimes and that was the only time we ever got on."
Hizashi fell silent and there was hint of regret in his pale eyes.
"What about Joji?" Kakashi asked.
"He died during this summer," Hizashi said shortly. Seeing Kakashi's face, Hizashi sighed and continued, "Cancer. They caught it too late, I believe. He was a weapons specialist, owned the best shop in Konoha. Married some kunoichi and had a daughter called Tenten, same age as my son… At least he achieved his dream."
"Hizashi-san?" Genma's voice echoed across the hall. "You're needed in classroom 1-B. More supplies have arrived."
Hizashi cleared his throat, dragging himself from the photographs. Without another word the head of the Hyuga branch spun on his heel and exited the hall.
Kakashi knew that he should probably follow but he found himself glued to the spot. All he could do was gaze at the wall.
His eyes moved from Minato and Kushina's year to the class that had graduated eleven years before. In the year of 743 there had only been three teams to graduate and successfully pass. However, it was not the old photograph of the Sannin that interested Kakashi. Nor was it the photo of a newly graduated Sakumo accompanied by his old team. Instead his gaze was fixated upon the third photo.
Sensei: Mitokado Homura
Students: Yuhi Hisao, Shiranui Ayane and Himura Risa
Shiranui Ayane, who was clearly related to Genma, was a haughty looking child who shared the smirk of her relative. To her left stood Yuhi Hisao. If someone had told Kakashi that that laughing boy would grow up to be a grim soldier, well, he would never have believed them.
Hisao was laughing yet unlike his teammate, he wasn't looking at the camera. Instead his eyes were drawn to his other teammate who stood on his far right. The photographer had caught Hisao in mid laughter, as he stood forever frozen in time, awaiting Himura Risa's reaction.
Risa… Kakashi drank in her appearance. The chestnut hair, the deep blue irises and the faraway expression… Yet her face was frighteningly familiar. Kakashi briefly touched his masked face as he stared at Risa's sharp cheekbones and narrow jawline.
All his life Kakashi had only a photograph and a vague recollection of his mother's scent to go by. It had taken him years to collect tiny yet valuable pieces of information about her. She had been in the cryptography unit; they shared the same appearance and apparently stubbornness too.
Kakashi knew it would be eternal mystery as to what happened between Hisao, Risa and Sakumo but suddenly he felt a strange peace settle over him.
All of these teams… How many of them actually remained? The Sannin were torn apart, Sakumo's entire genin team were dead, Hizashi was the sole survivor of his team and all of Jiraiya's students had died in action.
Kakashi's gaze then flicked down the year of 768.
Sensei: Namikaze Minato
Students: Uchiha Obito, Nohara Rin and Hatake Kakashi
Resolve filled Kakashi and he tightened his fists. Staring at the smiling face of Namikaze Minato he whispered, "It all up to us now… Isn't it Sensei? We're the new generation. Don't worry… I promise that we'll make you proud."
Later that evening, when Kakashi opened the front door he was hit with the words, "I'm going to live with you."
"Huh?" He blinked, staring at Obito who was standing on his porch. Suddenly Kakashi's quiet evening of reading book vanished in a puff of unceremonious smoke.
"I think what Obito means is 'can I live with you'?" Rin peered round Obito and she offered Kakashi a sympathetic smile.
"Wait… You're going to live here too?" Kakashi said bemused as Obito pushed past him and into the house.
"No I just came to help Obito with his bags," Rin told him as she picked up the remaining luggage and walked into Kakashi's house. All Kakashi could was scratch his head as Obito strolled off and dumped his bags in Kakashi's spare bedroom.
"Err… Make yourself at home?" Kakashi followed them as he watched Rin begin to unpack some Obito's things.
He leant against the doorframe, watching Rin unpack Obito clothes. Obito suddenly spun around and said, "Why weren't you at Sensei's memorial? I mean… Everyone was there… You of all people should have-"
"I know," Kakashi cut in. "I was… I was… Well…"
His two teammates waited expectantly and suddenly Kakashi laughed, "I guess I got lost on the road of life."
Obito and Rin both visibly relaxed. Silent understanding passed between the three of them. Without Minato, Team 7 was at a loss… But that was the thing. They were no longer ten years old anymore. It was up to them to keep moving on and support each other through whatever happened.
Obito cleared his throat awkwardly and said, "I left my clan."
"I… Broke up with Aoba," Rin whispered.
"I've been made ambassador to Kumo," Kakashi sighed.
It took them a moment to digest all the information that had passed. Suddenly Rin cast an eye at a lone cardboard box that sat upon the bed. She peered in it and gasped. Picking up an oddly shaped kunai from the box she said, "… Is this?"
Slowly Kakashi nodded, "It was delivered to me yesterday. I haven't had a chance to look at it yet."
With a curious expression Obito pulled out what looked like a thick manuscript and read, "Flirting Paradise. Volume 1 of the Make Out Series… By Jiraiya? He's an author?"
Kakashi watched Obito scan the first page. Immediately his friend turned bright red and he slammed the manuscript shut. "Yeah I… Might give this a read later," Obito said casually as he stowed the manuscript away into one of his bags.
Kakashi raised an eyebrow, making a mental note to tease Obito later. He too gazed into the box and pulled out a book. It was clear that the book had been well loved by Minato. Tatty, dog-eared with hundreds of creases in the spine Minato must have read the book so many times.
"The Tale of an Utterly Gutsy Ninja," Kakashi read. He flicked to a random page in the book and suddenly the main character's name caught his eye.
Naruto… Kakashi thought of Minato and Kushina's son. The Third had agreed to the conditions of it being publically known that Naruto was Konoha's jinchuriki. Kakashi knew that they were giving Naruto the path of an incredibly tough childhood however he was certain that it was for the best.
There were still hundreds of meetings to take place for everything to be finalised. Darui was to visit Konoha soon to help Konoha educate people about jinchuriki but hopefully with Kumo's help things would run smoothly. Kakashi couldn't help but smile at finally seeing his friend again. He missed Darui and Kumo's majestic peaks.
Slowly… The smile faded away. The Third had placed one condition however. Kakashi, Obito and Rin were not to communicate with Naruto during his childhood. As Minato's students it would arouse suspicion if they had any close relationships with Naruto. All they could do was protect him from the shadows.
Kakashi watched his friends go through Minato's things and he smiled. Now was not the time to break the news to them.
"I can't believe Minato and Kushina are gone," Rin sighed. "And poor Naruto…"
Suddenly Obito clapped a hand on both of his friends shoulders and he grinned, "We've still got each other."
Rin smiled and said softly, "That's right… We're family."
"We only show our faces to the ones we truly trust, love and care about."
Slowly Kakashi peeled down his mask causing Rin and Obito to smile. "Yeah that's right," he grinned. "We're family."
Everything froze and crystallised into one perfect moment for Team.
Yes, the future yawned in one frightening void in front of them but the unknown wasn't only just terrifying. It was exhilarating . As the three of them waved farewell to an era they were setting off into a new one. Of course growing up was never easy and living the life of a ninja was even harder. They would stumble, trip and fall along the way. Hearts would be broken, friends lost and one would die a tragic death.
Yet songs would be sung about the three friends and their names would upon the lips of Konoha citizens' lips for generations to come. One would be the inventor of techniques that would be famous across countries and the creator of a new nation. Another would become Hokage, reliving their Sensei's dream and protecting Konoha. The last would be forever immortalised as a legend.
A/N: Well that's it! There will be NO sequel, however I do feel that I should probably give a reason for the abrupt end to this fic.
When I first joined FF net my original intention was just to practice writing in third person. My first FF story Daybreak was the first story I wrote in third person and Chasing a Legend is the first thing I've written in past tense. So I hope my writing has come on since then though of course there are many, many writers on this site who are streets ahead of me.
However I realised the other day that it's been over year since I've watched an episode of Naruto and from the recent decline in quality of the chapters you've probably guessed that I've lost a lot of steam.
In any case even though I said I would write ten arcs, I've decided to end CAL here. FF is all about writing about a fandom that you love and I can't force myself to write. It wouldn't be fair on you as readers to read writing of poor quality and I'm no longer able to do this fandom justice.
To those who have followed this to the bitter end thanks so much for reading. I've loved every review I've received.
Believe me when I say I'll miss FF net and I'm sorry to leave you like this but right now I'm just so tired and I really need to move on.
If anyone wishes to continue CAL or is intrigued to what I had planned, PM me and I'll pass on my plans for Part II.
Thanks for reading and good luck in whatever you want to do!